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A University of Canterbury (UC) researcher is investigating the thoroughbred racing industry in New Zealand which contributes extensively towards the New Zealand economy, directly providing 2000 jobs and attracting $464 million in bets in the 2009-2010 season.
The breeding sector exports annually to places such as Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, with an aggregate turnover of more than $72 million at this year’s National Yearling Sales.
UC anthropology masters student Colette Holdorf is researching thoroughbred racing in Canterbury which was once the centre of flat-racing in New Zealand but has been surpassed by harness racing.
Holdorf’s research is wide ranging, exploring breeding, training and racing, as well as issues of risk, gender, social and economic commitment and human-horse intimacies.
``Fifty-two percent of thoroughbred racing in New Zealand is centred in the Auckland and Waikato regions, with the South Island having just 23.7 percent of the action.
``The smaller character of the industry in the Canterbury region gives it a unique atmosphere where participants are generally known to each other and have connections through the everyday running of their horses. I aim to demonstrate how people in the racing industry form a community. I’m also looking at different levels of risk-taking as it is the nature of betting that attracts punters to racing.
``The New Zealand industry and specifically the South Island have more female participants than anywhere else. The strong emerging female workforce has materialised due to pony clubs. Riding and horses are becoming marketed more towards girls than boys.
``Research suggests there is a unique situation in New Zealand and specifically in the Canterbury industry with a rapid influx of women into traditional male occupations such as jockeys. I aim to understand what draws women into the Canterbury racing industry.’’
Holdorf’s research looks at the strong attachment participants have with their horses which suggests horses are categorised differently from pets, forming a category similar to kin. The shared daily-life experiences of humans and horses lends to this form of kinship, Holdorf said.